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The Watergate Hotel

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Argentta Spa at the Watergate Hotel

Bernard Burt


Want to be among the first members of the new spa at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC? Just 300 members will have access to this new retreat, offering full spa services within a world-class hotel. Charter members will pay $5,000 for the two-year inaugural period, plus monthly fee of $250.

Renovation of the iconic hotel continues, with opening now scheduled for spring 2016. In an exclusive interview, Allen Hunt, Director of Spa and Membership, confirmed plans. The new spa will introduce a mix of wellness and beauty, catering to both residents of the Watergate complex and celebrity guests.

To be called Argentta Spa, the 12,500-square-foot complex will include an indoor swimming pool with filtered salt water, exercise facility, and seven treatment rooms. Featured treatments by leading international brands will bring distinctive services to the new spa. Chosen by Hunt: vinotherapy pioneer Caudalie from France; Red Flower organic skin and nail care made in America; and Swiss Cosmed’s Cellcosmet and Cellmen.

Hollywood-style festivities are planned for the hotel’s reopening. Beginning with a month-long tune-up in early 2016, the spa will be a focal point in the hotel’s $125-million makeover. Built 50 years ago, the hotel’s new look will be complete with staff costumed in mid-century modern outfits.

New features include a rooftop lounge providing panoramic views of the river and the nearby Kennedy Center. The newly expanded ballroom will be ready for Presidential inaugural parties, and an intimate dining room overlooking Rock Creek Parkway will be introduced.

Beginning with a month-long tune-up in early 2016, the spa will be a focal point in the hotel’s $125-million makeover. Built 50 years ago, the hotel’s new look will be complete with staff costumed in mid-century modern outfits.

The hotel is owned and operated by Euro Capital Properties. Rakel Cohen, the Canadian-bred director of design and development, said “I know that Americans look at the scandal as not something nice. But we’re trying to bring it in a delicate way and in a fun way.”

Janie Bryant, designer of staff costumes, said she watched “All The President’s Men” regularly, but that she was working to evoke “the elegance and the glamour of the hotel” rather than the politicians who made it infamous. Interior designer Ron Arad continues the sweeping curves of the original hotel in updated public rooms and function space.

Developing extended sessions for treatments and personal training, Hunt envisions the spa becoming a vital part of the Watergate experience. Instead of hour-long appointments, guests will be offered enhanced services for two hours and longer, he told me.

A native Australian, Hunt brings almost 30 years of hospitality, leisure, and spa experience to The Watergate Hotel. For the past three years he has been senior vice president of business development at WTS International, based in Rockville, Maryland.

Hunt began his storied career in the hotel industry at Australia’s Hayman Island Resort, and later at The Ritz-Carlton Sydney. He then joined the team at The Hilton Sydney, quickly escalated from Front Office Manager to Rooms Division Manager and later Director of Guest Services. Throughout his 18 years with Hilton Worldwide, he oversaw service culture and development, food and beverage programming, and overall hotel operations and management.

Joining an Australia-based spa management firm introduced Hunt to global concepts. Branded by Spa Chakra in collaboration with Guerlain, Hunt successfully opened over 30 luxury spas over the course of 10 years. Introduced to Washington by The Nusta Spa, Hunt’s professional affiliations include The Washington Spa Alliance.

Bernard Burt

Bernard Burt

Health challenges led spa historian Bernard Burt to Canyon Ranch in Arizona, inspiring his 1986 book "Fodor's Healthy Escapes" for Random House. The co-author of "100 Best Spas of the World" (Globe Pequot), his byline has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, American Health, Spa Management Journal, and on Examiner.com. Based in Washington, DC, Burt is chairman emeritus of the Washington Spa Alliance and founding director of the International Spa Association.