Pedro Franca Pinto, a thoughtful natured Portuguese lawyer, had a dream for future generations. He yearned to offer his young children experiences that would impart a positive impact with the world around them, valuing a symbiotic relationship with nature above all else.
“I knew that I was going to be a father and started thinking about my life”, Pedro explains, as he began wondering what kind of example he wanted to lead with. Convinced there was more to his days than earning money in a material environment, Pedro believed a meaningful legacy could be found in trying to change the world – even by just making a difference to his little corner of it. This insistence sparked the beginnings of Pedro’s journey to build Craveiral Farmhouse, swapping city offices with wide open swathes of Alentejo land.
The project was born in 2010 as Pedro dove headfirst into the hospitality industry, one he had little experience of yet more than enough passion and drive to spur him through the challenges. Whether or not Pedro would do a few things differently, aiming beyond sustainability into regeneration has and will always remain an integral part of his approach. Now, Craveiral Farmhouse has proudly grown in it’s staffing community and bloomed as a resort, with the horizon promising environmental plans to continue regenerating the land. Pedro’s creation is, in essence, the embodiment of an emotional concept – an ethos centred around the simple idea that “if we believe in something, we should fight for it.”
Regenerative Travel talks with Pedro about financial challenges, going against industry standards, and hopes for his children.
Were you aware of the principles of regeneration when you first started to build?
The foundation of Craveiral was the fact that I knew I was going to be a father and I wanted to do something that could serve as an example, and to be different than the standard industry of hospitality – using hospitality as a means to change the environment and leave a positive impact in the region. Since the beginning, we did more than sustainability, we tried to create positive impact around us – not only sustainable, but improving the region. I was, and still am, a lawyer but I prefer to give them the experience of trying to make something different, trying to change the world on our micro scale.
Describe your relationship with the community when you first started to build the property.
At first people weren’t aware of the concept or relative size, meaning that the Craveiral farmhouses are on 3,500 square meters of construction area, and for the region it’s one of the biggest projects. At the beginning there was doubt about the real intentions of the project but these were overcome when we opened, because the project is very well integrated with the landscape and we comply with a lot of environmental criteria. We give work to a lot of people; we started this year with 22 employees, we now have 48 employees. We support some sports clubs, we employ people with learning disabilities in partnership with a local association and from each pizza we sell, we donate to that association. During the lockdown we offered meals to local authorities and didn’t promote or market that, it was so the authorities who received our meals really understood that it is a matter of trying to do good and not only a matter of marketing. So we have a very good presence now in the region. We are one of the few hotels that have some activity in the region, and I believe that we are having that activity because of the principles that we have followed. Because of COVID it was normal to close and have employee layoffs, we never did that – I believe that we created more value for the project.
How did community and environmental needs inform your decision making process in the initial builds?
During the licensing procedure of the project, as the project is located in an environmentally sensitive region, I needed to perform a new environmental impact study. Since the beginning, I had to comply with a lot of strict criteria regarding environmental impact, and complied with every suggestion from local authorities. Now the land is becoming much richer; we are recreating a protective, temporary Mediterranean lagoon that exists only between autumn and the beginning of spring. It is a place where the birds that flew from North Africa to north Europe and from north Europe to North Africa, they stopped to drink water and spend the night. So we are recreating that habitat. Implemented in the next couple of years, we will have a place where we have all the most significant plants of the region which are used for gastronomy, cosmetics and healing.
What are you most proud of?
Having 48 employees working on the project is very rewarding. Having the vision of the community, that we are an asset for them, is also very rewarding. The fact that the local authority and community really see that we are here to stay for the long term will allow us to continue to do new projects, in the same concept. So, it will be easier in the future to continue to invest in the region and do something good.
What lessons have you learned if you were going to do it again, and what would you do differently?
Well, it’s more technical than conceptual. Conceptually speaking, I would do the same, meaning being local, to use and value the local resources, and regenerate the soil and region. I’m a believer in local resources, it’s the local resources that make the difference in hospitality projects. The technical part, I would do a lot of things differently – I did direct administration in terms of construction, and suffered a lot in the process. Changing the structure would mean I wouldn’t be so short of staff as I was in this first project.
What are you aspiring to improve and get better at?
I want to be happy and I want my kids to be happy. My aspiration is to live my life in accordance with my principles, pass them to the kids and be happy working and feel that when I’m doing these kinds of things, I won’t feel that I’m working. I’m having pleasure.
What has been one of the biggest challenges that you’ve had to overcome?
For me, it was the setting up of the financial structure of the project. The biggest challenge was trying to do a project that was not aligned with the hospitality industry. Not being a person from the industry, being a lawyer – of course, I work in real estate and tourism and restructuring – but the banks looked at me as a person that didn’t have the knowhow of setting up a business. Especially, on top of that, the business was totally against the standards of the hospitality industry. So the most difficult part was to raise the funds and make people believe in the concept, because when we talk about concepts that are very emotional and are totally focused on the concept, sometimes not being from the industry it’s very difficult to get the funds. What I’m proud of now is people look at Craveiral, look at me as someone with a vision. When I started this in 2010, it was a vision few people had. This will allow me to get the funds for future projects and get people involved.
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