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A farmhouse holiday in the Portuguese countryside

Portugal has been added to the UK’s ‘green list’ for post-pandemic travel, which means plenty of us are currently brainstorming where to visit in this charming, colourful country. Exploring the cobblestone alleyways of Porto and tasting the region’s famed fortified wine sounds wonderful for a late-Spring getaway, as does working our way through the Pasteis de Nata bakeries of Lisbon, but we’ll be skipping the crowds and opting for something a little more secluded. 

Overtourism is a real issue, one that affects the planet and people in myriad ways, so staying off the beaten track while supporting an independently owned, sustainably run hotel like Craveiral Farmhouse feels right. It is located in the region of Alentejo, which covers over 30% of Portugal but is home to just 5% of the population. It’s the hottest and driest part of the country and is sparsely populated, rich in history and diverse in landscape. 

Spread across 9 acres of land and nestled amidst the rocky terrain of Alentejo, Craveiral is the passion project of Pedro Franca Pinto, a Lisbon lawyer who always had dreams of becoming a farmer. Pinto bought the land – a neglected field of carnations in the hills of Odemira – over 10 years ago, and slowly set about restoring it into the resort that stands today. 

Beautifully imperfect in its ruggedness, Craveiral was built with respect and consideration for the surrounding environment, which is awash with pine forests, orchards, olive groves and cork fields. It’s all about simplicity, space and slow living here. A collection of 38 cottages of varying sizes are peppered across the resort, many framed by wooden terraces. The relaxed interiors are a nod to Portuguese design, with hand-crafted wooden furniture from local brands and a pared-back, simplistic feel. 

For those craving a reconnection with nature and taste of rural life, Craveiral provides a relaxing and unfussy setting. There are plenty of opportunities for families to be entertained and educated through authentic experiences on-site. Spend time on the farm amongst goats, donkeys and other animals, take in the surrounding area on horseback, meander through an orchard of indigenous trees, learn about the local flora, fauna and produce at the permaculture garden and nature centre, and enjoy al fresco picnics and BBQs amidst unspoilt countryside with soothing views. Set between the countryside and the sea, you get the best of both worlds here. Nearby, there are quaint fishing towns, nature parks and plenty of coastline to explore. The turquoise beaches of Zambujeira do Mar and Carvalhal are also just 15 minutes away and are far less crowded than more popular destinations such as nearby Lagos. 

The hotel adopts various eco initiatives. Rainwater is collected, filtered and reused and the resort’s restaurants adopt a seasonal, organic-first, low-waste approach. The farm-to-table concept at both Craveiral FarmTable and Craveiral Pizzeria highlights local ingredients, much of which come from Craveiral’s very own farm and gardens. 

Owner Pedro’s driving goals run deeper than providing a unique and inspiring experience for guests; he is driven by a dedication to leaving a positive impact on the world. “I started Craveiral Farmhouse when I knew that I was going to be a father back in 2010,” he says. “Since the beginning, conceptually wise, the aim of the project was to contribute to a better world, one that my children would be proud of.” With this in mind, every decision that is taken regarding

Craveiral is carefully considered with a holistic view on sustainability in an environmental, social and financial sense. “We are aware that we cannot change the world, but we can take small steps that will contribute to the change we want to see in the world and lead by example, contributing to changing the mentalities in our community.” 

The local community of Alentejo is diverse and agriculture plays a central role in life here. Pedro sees great value in the community as well as an obligation to support and empower them. “In terms of tourism, we are one the biggest employers of our parish, with 50 workers. We never closed during the pandemic, we kept all jobs and we didn’t apply to lay-off procedures.” At a time when hospitality suffered greatly, Pedro was creative and resourceful in keeping his staff employed, business running and the many local artists and creatives supported. “During the first lockdown, we kept our Craveiral Pizzeria ComVida project open, delivering pizzas to the local community.” The project employs intellectually disabled people that have the capacity to work but have found it difficult to maintain jobs due to discrimination and bias. “In addition, 1€ from each pizza goes to fund the association Vila Com Vida, which promotes the integration of these people into the labour market.” Last month, Pedro invited a Portugeuse band to the farmhouse to record their album and in the evenings, they returned the favour by performing for guests. 

Staying at Craveiral, the focus on physical and mental health and wellbeing is ever-present. The resort provides four swimming pools, a wellness centre, spa treatments, and plenty of opportunity for physical activities. Integrating these values into their philanthropic efforts, they also financially support local sports clubs which serve those residing in the region. “This is not just about business, this is about life,” concludes Pedro. 

Going somewhere where you can experience a bit of luxury and relaxation is one thing, but also having the chance to ground yourself and reconnect with nature, without the superficial clutters of everyday life feels far more meaningful. The afterglow of this kind of trip is more likely to last once you’ve returned home than your typical beach holiday. 


Craveiral Farmhouse is located 15 minutes from the beaches of Zambujeira do Mar and Carvalhal, in the Southwest Alentejo. The nearest airport is Faro. Prices: High season: from €180 to €600 Low season: from €160 to €250

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Sustainability & luxury can coexist

Conservation and sustainability have been at the heart of Zannier Hotels’ DNA since the hotel group’s inception in 2011. Founder Arnaud Zannier has always had the core belief that the surrounding environment, culture and people of a location should always remain protected when developing a hotel or resort. 

Over the last decade, Zannier has grown to include five hotels, two residences and two private estates across four continents. Arnaud’s ethos has remained integral to the overarching themes and day-to-day running of the business. As the brand continues to expand its global offering with the recently opened Bai San Ho resort in Vietnam and an imminent launch in Mexico next year, we caught up with the man spearheading everything to discuss his driving goals, industry insights and hopes for the future of sustainable luxury travel.

How did you start out in the travel and hospitality industry and what inspired you to launch Zannier? 

I have always had a passion for architecture, interior design, good food and restaurants, so hospitality has always been close to my heart. After working in London for five years with the footwear brand, Kickers and running my own business (N.D.C made by hand, luxury handmade shoes), my father asked me to come back to the family business in fashion, however, I felt I couldn’t really make my mark. I already had in mind some ideas for a new approach to hospitality. I identified a trend – which was niche at the time – which was the view that the future of luxury is more about moments and experiences as opposed to gold taps and marble. In 2011, I had an opportunity to purchase the three-star Michelin restaurant “La Ferme de mon Père” in Megève (France) which I transformed into our first property, Zannier Hotels Le Chalet. This is where my Zannier Hotels adventure started.

How would you describe Zannier’s approach to sustainability?

Our core belief is that the surrounding environment, culture and people should remain protected, with conservation and sustainability playing a major part in Zannier Hotels’ DNA. At each of the Zannier properties, we constantly strive for sustainability in daily operations and work with passionate local teams with the utmost respect for local heritage and surrounding environment. 

We strive to conserve energy, limit single plastic use, and reduce waste across our properties. At Zannier Hotels Sonop, 100% of the energy comes from solar panels installed onsite and Zanier Hotels Omaanda has its own beehive to provide guests with honey. At our properties in Vietnam and Cambodia, we grow and cultivate our own rice in partnership with local farmers, and we have our own on-site gardens to supply produce to the kitchens. 

We also aim to support the local communities, with the majority of team members at each of the properties employed locally. We organise English lessons for residents of the surrounding villages in Vietnam and Cambodia, plus we are working on launching a more permanent training scheme for young people living in areas surrounding Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô so we can attract local talent and give back to community In addition, we source all our materials, food and products locally to support farmers, fishermen, artisans and craftsmen. 

Our approach to sustainability is evident in the construction of the hotels. To minimise the land impact of our new properties, we carefully consider the number of units developed, even if this means a lower occupation/revenue. We strive to achieve a good balance between maintaining a location’s natural charm and designing new infrastructure and we use local materials and building techniques to ensure our properties blend seamlessly into the landscape. This is reflected in the values of minimalism and authenticity that characterises Zannier Hotels.
Our commitment to wildlife conservation is most apparent at Zannier Reserve by N/a’an ku sê in Namibia which was created to ensure the land and wildlife remain protected. The 7,500-hectare reserve, which is financed predominantly through a percentage of revenue made from guests staying at Zannier Hotels Omaanda, celebrated two years at the beginning of the pandemic, during which time it has positively impacted the lives of 39 animals; 19 of which were critically endangered, 18 were near-threatened and two were vulnerable.

How do you strike the balance between luxury and sustainability?

Importantly, at Zannier Hotels we are constantly evolving and improving our sustainability practices. There is always more we can do, and we strive to do more each day. Sustainability is a necessity, not a choice. To us, sustainability and luxury are synonymous. Sustainability does not equal lack of or limitations, nor does our vision of luxury equal opulence or extravagance. Our ethos is less about “things” and more about “experiences”. We prioritise careful craftsmanship, inspiring people, fascinating cultures, and untamed landscapes. These are our luxuries. We aim to offer authentic and delightful experiences to our guests within beautiful environments, alongside a genuine and flawless approach to service and lasting sustainable actions.

What is the biggest sustainability challenge you face as a business?

To think differently in an industry that is very systemized is a challenge, but this is our vision and what we strive to do. In terms of sustainability the big challenge is to design the greenest hotel possible without compromising our experience, and continuing to challenge ourselves every day. We cannot settle for what we already have, we must constantly progress. 

How is Zannier Hotels helping guests to embrace sustainability?

I think the best way to help our guests to embrace sustainability is to show them what we do during their stay and highlight the impact those actions have on the environment. For example, last year the Zannier Reserve by N/a’an ku sê launched their unique Rhino Rangers volunteer programme, which was created to offer travellers the opportunity to immerse themselves into the challenging world of anti-poaching in Namibia. The programme gives guests a unique insight into the threat of poaching and educates them on the importance of conservation. 

How have you seen travellers’ interest in sustainability enhance since launching in 2011?

Society has woken up to the environmental issues we face, and the pressure and realisation from this is part of the answer. We have also started to wake up to the effects of mass-tourism and the damage it has done to our planet. People still want to travel but they really want to take their time when they’re there and ensure it has a positive impact on the local communities and environment.  I think this has accelerated during the pandemic. The time out has made us take stock of the world around us and the damage we’re doing to our planet. People are more mindful. How a resort impacts its surrounding environment, and nearby communities will be a key factor in choosing a destination. They want to travel with a sense of purpose and are increasingly conscious about how their tourism dollars can positively or negatively affect the place they’re visiting. 

This will only become more important as we see the impact of climate change on our planet – such as the recent devastating floods and fires. The IPCC Report is a stark warning, and we need urgent collective action to save the planet. I believe this is now at the forefront of the minds of most travellers and sustainability will become a necessity, rather than a choice. 

As the effects of climate change and over-tourism become more apparent than ever, how has your personal view on the travel industry changed over the years?

The importance of sustainable tourism has been on the industry’s radar for a number of years, and the pandemic certainly highlighted this further. The effects of climate change and over-tourism confirms the vision that I had a decade ago, to create a brand focusing on a ‘human-scale’ level of tourism. Today more than ever, the hospitality industry has a duty to the environment which has been under threat for decades due to over tourism. Having seen firsthand how communities and cultures have been affected, it is obvious that we need to act together quickly to protect future generations. 

Why do you think it’s important for the hospitality industry to work with local communities?

Working with local communities is not just important for Zannier Hotels, it is a core element of our DNA. We operate a diverse and inclusive company culture; 98% of our team are employed locally. We believe that our genuine and warm hospitality is built from an authentic desire to share and celebrate the traditions of the country in which the hotel is located. Community development and education projects at our properties also help to create a positive future for the younger generation. 

For travellers seeking culturally rich experiences, what advice would you give them to do so respectfully, ethically and sustainably?

In my opinion, the key is to travel humbly with an open mind, open arms and open heart. Respect the local history and customs and be genuinely curious. It is up to us to adapt ourselves to the culture or the environment, not the other way round. 

What are your hopes for the future of the industry?

For me, respect is the most important value one can show in the luxury hospitality sector. Most hotels do not consider the place and people when expanding their brand, they would rather choose a popular tourist destination than consider authentic experiences and cultures. I hope that the industry will return to simpler pleasures that do not impact the environment or the people around them, but rather include them, and thus become a more respectful and active agent of change than it is now.

Images courtesy of the Zannier Hotels Press Kit.
www.zannierhotels.com

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Lake District & carbon neutral travel

The last year has really seen a push in destinations vying for better sustainability going forward, striving for solution-led and active leadership when it comes to battling carbon emissions, and travel is starting to lead the way when it comes to paving paths forward that are green and progressive. The UK itself signed it into law that we pledge, as a country, to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050 but naturally, some places are doing it better than others, and one such place that is leading the charge is Cumbria and the Lake District. 

It makes sense that such a wonder of the world would want to protect its beauty, its integrity and the natural formations that make it what it is. But it’s an ambitious wish that they’ve put out to the universe, and one that is admirable in its impactful approach. By 2037, Cumbria and the Lake District aim to become the UK’s first carbon-neutral county, and they are mobilising communities, businesses, and charities to all join the force. 

The Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership includes a wide range of organisations with a key role to play in decarbonising the county at the pace and scale required by climate science, and fundamentally, is supported by the National Lottery. In an interview with The Guardian, Karen Mitchell, the CEO of Cumbria Action for Sustainability (Cafs), said that they are ‘not excluding being able to do it earlier, either. This is a climate emergency and we should be throwing everything at it.’ As it stands, the Lake District is suffering from soil erosion at a dramatic rate and it could look very different in 50 years’ time, due largely to climate change and human actions. 

But what does it mean to become a carbon-neutral county, exactly, and what’s in the county’s carbon-neutral plan? Travel is important, and people want to still be able to explore the world, discover new places and play tourist a few times a year. The plan to become a carbon-neutral county supports tourism, recognises its importance but looks to find a way to allow the travel and tourism industry to continue in a more mindful and sustainable manner. 

The different initiatives focus on personalised (to the area) and varied approaches to hone in on areas where there is a need to be more green, such as (but not limited to): 

LOW CARBON FOOD NETWORK

Communities and businesses will work together to create low-carbon menus and share good practices, with the potential to develop a Low Carbon Food Charter for Cumbria. An online Low Carbon Food toolkit is being created to help the food sector to share experiences, learn more about the carbon footprint of food and how it can be reduced. The project will also help the public and communities to understand more about low-carbon food and inspire local action.

GROW LOCAL, EAT LOCAL

This project will explore a new model of food growing to increase plant-based food production in Cumbria, reduce food miles by working in partnership with local retailers, and offset carbon usage of local distribution through agroforestry. One aim of this project is to help set up a cooperative bringing together farmers to grow fruit, vegetables and cereal crops to be enjoyed by local people, diversifying farm businesses and generating income. 

GO LAKE TRAVEL

Funded by the Department of Transport through a £6.9 million initiative, this project aims to change how visitors travel to, from, and around the Lake District, with a particular focus on more sustainable travel methods. Naturally, this kind of set-up will allow other county’s to take inspiration and learn how it is possible to reduce carbon without impacting vital tourism. 

FIX THE FELLS

With walking such a popular pastime for those visiting the Lake District, Fix the Fells has been put in place to raise awareness of mountain and footpath erosion. This is a brilliant example of a personalised approach. 

LOW CARBON COTTAGES

Working alongside owners of holiday cottages and letting companies, this project aims to reduce carbon emissions and the costs of running traditional cottages. 

It’s initiatives such as these that other popular tourist destinations can take inspiration from for their own carbon fighting pioneering – in many ways, it can be seen as an eco-roadmap for more green travelling to follow. Much of the focus on how the Lake District plans to lead the way is put into realistic and reasonable initiatives – ones that can be picked up, worked on immediately and have a clear route to success. 

For a popular tourist destination such as the Lake District, becoming carbon-neutral won’t come without its fair share of considerable challenges, after all, the place is visited by around 50 million people per year. This, however, is the pinnacle issue in sustainable travel and tourism, and one that many tourist destinations across the world will face. The focus, therefore, needs to be on allowing people to visit in the most sustainable way possible. 

One organisation that is making huge movements is the Lake District National Park Authority who, ​​after 12 months of carbon emission reducing initiatives, are working towards being a carbon net zero operation by 2025. They make up one of the 70 members of the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership, who are leading the drive to cut emissions across the county. Some of the many admirable ways they are going about their pledge are through electric vehicles for staff, more home working, and saving on utilities. What’s worth noting, is that these are all manageable day to day steps that many other people could follow suit on. 

Inspired to take a trip to the beautiful Lakes this autumn, and support regenerative tourism in the process? We thought you might be, so we’ve put together a little guide below. But remember, go about your journey as mindfully and responsible as possible. 

We’ve put together a list of our favourite things & places to stay in the Lakes!

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How can travel become more responsible?

1. Connect with local culture 

As passionate hospitality professionals, we have the privilege of discovering and connecting with local communities, providing travellers with the opportunity to experience a destination in the most beautiful and authentic ways possible. For example, wandering through the small markets with a local chef will give insight into the way local people really live. To me, empowering local communities is just as important as choosing a destination. We should be able to help the village or even the country in which we develop our projects and keep that in mind whilst creating it.

2. Support sustainability 

Often, sustainability is seen as unreachable and far too complex for a company to apply on a large scale. The truth is, even the biggest companies can put sustainable solutions in place, step by step. Let’s start with aiming to leave — as much as possible — a positive footprint in the places where we operate. This includes sustainable construction, eco-conception, predominance of raw materials, waste management, use of local techniques, and empowerment of the local workforce. Sustainability must be planned ahead of construction and present from start to finish in the creation process. 

3. Focus on philanthropy 

It has never been more important to help preserve the environment and wildlife. The Amazon rainforest has been burning for months, and that is just one example of our planet under threat. 

Each one of us has a responsibility in this catastrophe, and I believe COVID-19 is just another consequence of our carelessness. The effects of the virus have had an enormous impact on tourism, especially in secluded and hard-to-access locations, which rely on tourism to survive. Africa-based conservation schemes for instance, many of which are driven by ecotourism, are struggling to make ends meet. 

A final thought…

One idea would be to simply travel to these destinations that make much of their living from tourism to help them recover. In the meantime, we must all continue our hard work of preservation and reintroduction to ensure the land and wildlife remain protected. I would encourage everyone who wishes to make a difference during these challenging times to help their local associations, for example by donating homegrown vegetables, fruits, or any ingredients that can’t be sold for aesthetic reasons, instead of throwing them away. Responsible travel may take place around the world, but these good habits start at home.

Image courtesy of Zannier Hotel’s Press Kit.
www.zannierhotels.com