Unconventional Appeal

Despite the fact that the InterContinental San Francisco is conveniently located adjacent to the Moscone West Convention Center, the city's largest meeting and exhibition facility, it is definitely not business as usual for visitors to the 550-room property. Opened this past February, the hotel features a host of amenities for convention-goers to enjoy on breaks or for tourists to take advantage of, such as an exclusive Club InterContinental lounge with complimentary food and beverages served throughout the day; spacious terraces where guests can enjoy city views; Luce, an upscale restaurant featuring northern Italian cuisine; Bar 888, where visitors can choose from more than a dozen grappa-infused cocktails; a state-of-the-art fitness center; and an indoor lap pool. But for a decidedly decadent experience, especially after a hard day's work, visitors will find solace at the hotel's I-Spa. Upon entering the 5,050-square-foot, 10-treatment-room relaxation haven, guests are immediately put at ease by the soothing decor consisting of bamboo floors, light seafoam green walls, and floor-to-ceiling windows, which allow for natural sunlight to stream in. "Once the drywall came down to unveil the spa's beautiful floors and walls, I was given the exciting task to work in this calming atmosphere and enhance the total experience of our guests with the remaining features," explains spa director Hina Mufti, who was hired eight weeks prior to the spa's opening. "The spa menu and every detail, such as the heated tables, soft micro-satin sheets and covers, robes, retail products, and amenities, were chosen to induce the highest degree of pampering and evoke a sense of peace and calm."

The InterContinental San Francisco was designed to complement the architecture of the connecting Moscone West Convention Center.
The InterContinental San Francisco was designed to complement the architecture of the connecting Moscone West Convention Center.

What sets I-Spa apart from other spas in the area, says Mufti, who has studied native healing traditions from around the world, is the personalization of each experience, along with the ability to not only preserve the quality of indigenous treatments, but also give them a modern twist. "The overall vibe can be described as a fusion of modern and traditional elements customized for each individual so he or she can leave feeling indulged, invigorated, and inspired," she says. For example, clients can enjoy a traditional Ayurvedic treatment complete with herbal compresses while listening to customized selections of music playing on an iPod.

Guests are meant to feel a sense of serenity the moment they enter I-Spa.
Guests are meant to feel a sense of serenity the moment they enter I-Spa.

The clean design, muted tones, and warm touches in the reception and waiting area are intended to induce relaxation.
The clean design, muted tones, and warm touches in the reception and waiting area are intended to induce relaxation.

According to Mufti, about 25 percent of the spa's clientele is from the San Francisco area, with the rest being hotel guests. Because of the hotel's proximity to the convention center, Mufti says most clients are weary travelers looking for relief for fatigued muscles and dehydrated skin associated with traveling. "We let our guests know that visiting the spa and receiving a treatment during a trip is not only prudent and convenient, but in addition to being relaxing, it can also stimulate productivity," she says.



Like the rest of the spa, the manicure and pedicure area is minimalistic, yet inviting.
Like the rest of the spa, the manicure and pedicure area is minimalistic, yet inviting.

Whether locals or visitors, spa-goers not surprisingly tend to gravitate toward a basic massage, says Mufti, but many also want to experience treatments that they can't necessarily get elsewhere, such as the Ayurvedic Balancing Treatment ($125, 50 minutes; $185, 80 minutes), a massage that is performed with moist heat compresses and a customized herbal-infused body oil to aid in balancing and detoxifying. Another hit is the Aromatherapy Massage ($125, 50 minutes; $185, 80 minutes). During either massage, clients can choose to incorporate, free of charge, an essential oils blending bar experience, where they fill out a questionnaire to determine which mixture of essential oils will be used during their treatment. The facials, all of which are performed using Murad products, are also quite popular, particularly the C Results ($125, 50 minutes; $185, 80 minutes), which utilizes Howard Murad's patented infusion technology to deliver pure vitamin C directly into the skin for maximum results.

The complete line of Murad products are available in the retail area for clients to take home.
The complete line of Murad products are available in the retail area for clients to take home.

Visitors to I-Spa find a welcoming respite from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco.
Visitors to I-Spa find a welcoming respite from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco.

In typical California style, I-Spa strives to be as environmentally friendly as possible. "Our vision is to provide guests with a spa that values wellness, personal growth, and social and environmental responsibility," says Mufti. "Our commitment to our vision begins with a selection of sustainable operating practices and product selections." For example, all sheets and robes are 100 percent microfiber, which doesn't take as long to dry as other materials, thus saving energy during the cleaning process. Environmental responsibility came into play when choosing the product lines, as well. "Our choice vendors are committed to various forms of green practices through their manufacturing, production, and distribution," says Mufti. "Most contain organic ingredients and use packaging from recycled material, such as Tara Spa Therapy, which utilizes polyester and cardboard canisters with metal lids rather than plastic." In addition, Mufti says that no products are tested on animals or contain synthetic fragrances or artificial dyes. "At I-Spa, one guiding principle is that our products should not only perform a function, but also connect with our guests in innovative and meaningful ways," says Mufti.

During treatments, clients can choose to enjoy a view of the city or have the curtains drawn for a more intimate experience.
During treatments, clients can choose to enjoy a view of the city or have the curtains drawn for a more intimate experience.

The indoor heated lap pool is available to all hotel guests.
The indoor heated lap pool is available to all hotel guests.

When it comes to the challenges of running the spa, Mufti can't think of any. Even finding qualified employees, which is typically difficult, didn't pose a problem. The spa has 40 staff members, five of whom are considered to be "lead staff," meaning they work full-time, to tend to the 50 to 75 guests a day. "We are lucky to be in San Francisco, which is known for its surplus of skilled therapists," she says. Perhaps the real challenge lay in the hands of I-Spa guests, who, after experiencing such personalized pampering, must make it back to their meetings on time.



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