Incredible Wellness Destinations: Leesa Jones Of The Tryall Club On The Secrets To Creating The Perfect Wellness Destination

Incredible Wellness Destinations: Leesa Jones Of The Tryall Club On The Secrets To Creating The Perfect Wellness Destination

Engaging in local culture while traveling allows you to immerse yourself in the customs, traditions, and way of life of the people in the place you visit. I aim to attend cultural events, try local foods, learn about the history, and participate in community activities while visiting another country. Gaining a deeper understanding of yourself and others, while fostering personal growth and well-being is so important.

The pandemic has shaped the way we travel and live, with a growing trend leaning towards health, wellness, and a holistic lifestyle. More than ever, individuals are not just seeking vgetaways, but immersive wellness retreats that help rejuvenate the body, mind, and soul. Destinations that provide a serene environment, unique wellness offerings, and an unparalleled experience are in great demand. In this interview series, we are talking to property owners and hospitality companies who are at the helm of these wellness havens. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leesa Jones.

Leesa Jones, the Spa Director at The Tryall Club, started her career in spa and wellness in 1993 and has traveled the globe doing everything from manicuring at 35,000ft with Virgin Atlantic Airways, to being General Manager of an exclusive hotel and a private island. She has worked at some of the world’s most prestigious spas including Spa Necker Island, Spa La Residencia, Spa Ulusaba, and Spa Kasbah Tamadot and even opened her own property, The Retreat at Nail Bay on Virgin Gorda as well as her own Spa which is located on Saba Rock Resort (based in British Virgin Islands). Opening new spas, designing bespoke treatments, spa menus and training therapists to deliver exceptional and holistic wellness experiences has been her forte and passion and in January of 2024, Leesa helped open The Spa at Tryall.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Thank you for interviewing me! Of course. I was raised in a small idyllic village in Northamptonshire, UK called Blakesley. At a young age, I knew the spa industry was the career path I wanted to pursue, my love for travel and hospitality soon followed! I finished high school at 16, I completed the relevant qualifications and moved forward. By 19, I was working full-time and focusing on my spa career.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

When first joining the workforce, I was unsure of all the expectations and realities that went along with chasing my passion. My first boss’ standards were very high, motivating me to put forth my best work early into my career. During this time, I was able to push myself while also getting encouragement from my team. Working with some of the top cosmetics and brands opened my eyes to the standards that I wanted to set for myself as well — always striving to do the best I could. Along my professional journey, I’ve worked with some amazing people who continue to inspire me in every direction. It has truly been the people I have met along the way which have continuously motivated me within my career and personal life.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

When I was working at Virgin and transitioned from Airline to luxury resorts, the team members were always supportive. This was a big transition to the hospitality sector, and I am grateful that they guided me in the industry. There was such a strong sense of Ethos within the company, which I believe helped bring all the employees together into a tight-knit family. I furthered my career with experience and quickly was able to learn and pick up on things to continue growing. To this day, I am very lucky to have proven myself with previous experience, as I know it can be difficult to pursue a career in this day and age without a degree. I am thankful to those who believed in me, as it was a wonderful way to boost my career confidence at such a young age.

It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?

After Hurricane Irma hit the British Virgin Islands as the biggest hurricane on record (at that time), our children and I were evacuated. The British and US Virgin Islands were wiped out and our home was destroyed and sadly my job was also not an available opportunity anymore. My husband, Kenton, stayed to help with the recovery, ensuring those that couldn’t leave had fresh water and supplies. We were very blessed to be able to move in with my Mum and enjoyed quality time with her in the UK for 8 months until we could head home and start to rebuild. Through it all, I stayed positive and rather than dwelling on the tragic state of our home and life, I looked for my next challenge. The kids were enjoying life in the UK, seeing the four seasons, very different to their Caribbean lives, and time with family. We all made the most of what was happening to us knowing that we were heading home to the BVI as soon as we could.

During this time, I realized that a flexible, travel-friendly work schedule was a top priority for me, and so “Spa & Sparkle” was born. Originally, my idea was based around getting friends together to have spa days at one of their homes. My clients would have a lot of fun spending time and catching up, while taking turns to enjoy luxurious treatments focusing on anti-aging, relaxing massage, and healing. I also showcased a jewelry range I was retailing, which plays into the sparkle element of “Spa & Sparkle.”

When we moved home to the BVI, I quickly took on the task of redesigning and rebuilding our home on Virgin Gorda, while creating our own business, “The Retreat at Nail Bay.” We transformed our ruined building into our family apartment, two luxury one bed apartments looking out to the Caribbean Sea, and a dedicated spa room for Spa & Sparkle. The spa grew and moved as we obtained more clients. Now, Spa & Sparkle is based at Saba Rock Resort in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda. The lesson I learned throughout this time was to always look forward, don’t dwell, and stay positive and courageous. In time, you will find your next path… it may just take some time. Don’t give up, keep going!

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

One of my favorite spa quotes (also included on my website) is how “almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Additionally, sharing through two of my favorite life quotes from Nelson Mandela:

  • “It always seems impossible until its done.”
  • “What counts in life is not the mere fact we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

The Spa at Tryall has been an exciting project recently and we have some amazing additions still to come. It has been one of my favorite projects to date…the moment I saw the beautiful, but broken-down property, the vision of what it could be buzzed my mind! Right now, I am also working on some treatment designs with my team in the British Virgin Islands. We have all been in the spa world for some time and together have an abundance of experience that we bring to the table! I can’t say too much now, however our goal is to create treatments with the specific intention of helping people. More to come soon!

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview about wellness destinations. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or personal experience, why do you think travel can lead to better wellness? Can you share a story?

During my career in both Spa and Hotel Management, I have come across clients that are highly stressed. Those straight out of the city, having hardly seen the sky or breathed in the fresh air due to working so hard and potentially not sleeping enough, can often be the most impacted. They frequently have a high need to de-stress and connect with family and nature. Taking a break is necessary before their body creates illnesses due to the high cortisol levels (cortisol is one of the body’s stress hormones, it can cause illness if left running at a high level).

The people who indulge in spa offerings, have been my greatest challenge and greatest reward. I customize plans to bring their state of mind down from Gamma to Beta waves, and in the spa bring them to an Alpha brainwave state…that wonderful place between sleep and awake, dreamy relaxation at its best. Lowering the brainwave patterns help reduce the stress hormone, allowing healing to happen, bringing more clarity and consciousness of all that is around you. Encouraging clients to leave their phone in the room and spend more time outdoors and in nature.

The Tryall Club has everything for all states of mind, both in the form of challenges and energy driven activities like early morning tennis, 18 holes of golf across lush terrain, fun pickleball tournaments, hiking among the rain forest, or sailing on the ocean. Tryall has activities to suit everyone. Additionally, The Spa at Tryall, overlooks the lush rainforests of Jamaica, offering that ideal time to “switch off and on again.” The spa has a unique and diverse menu that we have put together to reflect the surroundings. We will be adding more in the near future in order to enhance our wellness offerings further.

When you are at a high level of stress, you can be left feeling overwhelmed with work and in time this can grow into your everyday life. I have experienced this myself and have had to set rules to help relax and recharge. I will disconnect from technology and my normal daily routine to spend time with my family and friends. We went away recently during my children’s half term school break and in my mind, I felt there was no way I could go away, there was too much to do! I wasn’t sleeping properly, and my stress levels were high leaving me feeling overwhelmed and not able to “see the wood for the trees,” as they say. It took me at least 48 hours to get out of that high stressed state of mind, with the calming sailboat surroundings helping greatly! I used sound meditation and did some yoga on empty beaches whilst my family kite surfed. By day three of our trip, my mind was clearer, and I started to sleep through the night. By the end of the week, I felt like a completely different person with a new sense of calm. I returned to work a week later more focused, and able to prioritize tasks that felt out of control 2 weeks before. Sometimes when we think we don’t have time for a break, it is truly when we need it most.

What are a few things which distinguish your property from thousands of wellness properties around the world?

The Spa at Tryall is authentic to Jamaica in so many ways. When creating the spa, we utilized the stunning Jamaican materials that surround us, reconditioning the locally sourced wooden flooring, doors and windows, designing the spa cabinetry and displays using local cedar and Bamboo, handcrafted pottery sinks and stunning mosaic tiling. The spa is also adorned with colorful artwork that all local artists created. Almost everything comprised within our spa is locally crafted and ties into the unique products, treatments, and rituals guests can find here. For our treatments we are bringing a “farm-to-spa concept,” by using natural products including ‘JACANA JAMAICA’ a USDA organic certified, CBD & Jamaican botanical range of massage products, locally sun grown in the mountains of Jamaica. We have devised bespoke JACANA treatment rituals for guests to try depending on their needs, incorporating holistic, energy healing, deep tissue release or exfoliation and lymphatic drainage. Our team also presents guests with a choice of sound during 90-minute treatments, offering a tailor-made chakra balancing sound bath that plays for the duration of the massage. Here at The Spa at Tryall, it is our mission to uphold our Jamaican authenticity and pride, and to continue to deliver special offerings for guests around the world to experience.

What type of experience do you want your visitors to have when they visit?

We envision visitors to be transported into complete serenity and a relaxing oasis, away from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives. We take a holistic approach to wellness, encouraging guests to nurture both their bodies and minds. By using local rituals, botanicals, and the healing sounds of Jamaica, we establish a comfortable environment for visitors and transport them into the Jamaican laid-back lifestyle.

What makes your property a beautiful escape for a body and mind recharge?

The Spa at Tryall offers an extensive list of treatments to satisfy all spa goers, with serene views of the beautiful Jamaican landscape, sending individual’s body and minds into complete tranquility. With the vibrant greenery and sounds of nature surrounding the luxurious spa, palm trees swaying back and forth, and the warmth of the sun touching your skin, there’s no better place to recharge. The stunning Yoga and Meditation room truly allows guests to embrace their Zen with views out over the lush mountains, turquoise blue waters, and Montego Bay rainforest.

After guests complete their classes or treatments, they can lounge by the pool to embrace a continued rejuvenated state of mind. Be prepared to step calmly back into the world!

Can you share any transformative stories or testimonials from guests that visited your property?

It is heartwarming to see everyone enjoy The Spa at Tryall. It truly brings a smile to the team’s faces hearing all the wonderful feedback from our guests! Multiple people have shared how it is the “best facial” or “best massage” they have EVER had. Our team takes pride in delivering world class treatments by using a combination of techniques from around the world. The wonderful Jamaican spa team has embraced all their training to put forth the best, innovative spa offerings for guests.

Why do you think the experience you offer is so needed nowadays?

Nowadays, most people are focused on constantly going and moving at a fast pace. We do not take a second (or have a spare second) to enjoy our Earth and its natural properties and do not spend enough time to transport our bodies and minds into the complete relaxation state that it craves. The Spa at Tryall goes beyond the treatments offerings by truly allowing guests to reconnect to their bodies. With the local Jamaican products we incorporate, such as JACANA Jamaica and the Bamford wellness journeys, guests can take a step back from their busy, everyday lives to enjoy top-tier wellness. Taking care of our bodies and minds is essential for longevity and to renourish our souls. Additionally, we encourage guests to completely unplug, leaving all electronics beyond so they can focus on the present moment. Here at The Spa at Tryall we embrace this disconnected, simple lifestyle to take advantage of the time to rest during your stay.

Do you think travel enhances our mindfulness, optimism, or sense of gratitude? How? Can you please explain with an example or story?

Absolutely! Travel and wellness both go hand-in-hand by opening up our minds further and supports mindfulness, optimism, and a sense of gratitude. Having the opportunity to experience different countries with unique culture and environments allows us to appreciate our ability to explore and see these wonderous aspects. Recharging helps us create a better version of ourselves through observation, adventure & gratitude, embracing cultures and self-care. It is so important to ensure you leave your everyday behind, put an out of office on, and as much as possible focus on lowering the stress hormone. When we encourage our bodies to heal by sleeping longer, reading, and engaging in new activities, all of these things improve our mental and physical health by boosting endorphin levels.

Traveling exposes us to new environments, cultures, and experiences that demand our attention and presence. This heightened awareness helps us become more mindful of our surroundings, thoughts, and emotions. For instance, when exploring a new place, we need to be attentive to navigate through unfamiliar streets, read maps, and communicate with locals. When we travel, we often step out of our comfort zones and face new challenges.

When I travelled to work in Morocco, my first mission was to set up a spa in the Atlas Mountains at Kasbah Tamadot. Years later, I returned as a hotel manager I learned so much about different cultures and people along the way. You will not find a warmer welcome than that from the Berber community. We would hike through the foothills of Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, and I was at first so surprised by being welcomed into the homes of strangers in the lovely mountain villages. The truth was that these communities are so kind and generous, as they would give their meal to you and feel happy doing so. There seemed to be no greed and such a wonderful simplicity as homes were without all of the technology we know. Families live together from grandparents to their great grandchildren, chatting and creating their own fun together whilst enjoying the beauty of the mountains around them.

One of my favorite memories was meeting Milouda, she worked in the local village hammam in Asni and had applied to work with us in the spa. We both had so much to learn from each other and our first lesson was at a nearby Hammam located in Kasbah Toubkal. We started by her giving me a hammam in the traditional way and I felt wonderful. With my experience and love of creating new treatments, we were able to add a luxurious edge to this traditional bathing ceremony. We needed the basics to communicate so began by drawing the body on a sheet of paper. I taught her English and she taught me Berber, learning each limb and developing a treatment that was later to become the most popular on the Kasbah Tamadot spa menu. Milouda is now a fully qualified spa therapist.

Morocco taught me so much about how we can live peacefully, without judgement and in simplicity. Taking what is around us and utilizing it to bring a fruitful life. Jamaica reminds me a lot of Morocco with its lush landscape, creating an abundance of unique produce and the beauty, unity, and the generosity of people speaks volumes.

What are your “5 Habits You Should Develop In Order Make Travel Into An Opportunity For Wellness & Personal Growth?”

Traveling can be more than just a leisure activity or a means of exploration. It can also serve as an opportunity for wellness and personal growth. Please see below for five habits I try to use during my travels.

1. Embrace Mindfulness

  • Mindfulness is the practice of being present and fully engaged in the current moment. By cultivating mindfulness while traveling, we enhance our overall well-being and personal growth. I also try to observe thoughts and feelings without judgment, engage in self-reflection, and appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. At The Tryall Club, mindfulness can be practiced through activities such as meditation, yoga, or simply taking a few deep breaths and observing your environment. We offer group yoga sessions with Sound Meditation, as well as Meditative walks in the rainforest. Have you ever stopped and listened to the sound bamboo makes when it is moving in the wind? On a still day, you can hear it creak as it grows! The bamboo circles are one of my favorite things here at Tryall, especially combined with the sounds of the fresh flowing river.

2. Prioritize Self-Care

  • Traveling can be both physically and mentally demanding, so prioritizing self-care is essential for maintaining well-being and promoting personal growth. Additionally, travelers should find the time to exercise and enjoy time in nature. Self-care also extends into trying fresh nutrition, sleeping longer and better, participating in yoga and meditation, and indulging in treatments that nurture your emotional and mental well-being.

3. Practice Gratitude

  • Practicing gratitude has been shown to improve overall well-being and promote personal growth. We live at such a fast pace these days so slowing down and taking time to enjoy our surroundings is imperative, helping us feel thankful for the people, places, and experiences that have brought joy to our journey. It is vital to acknowledge and appreciate the positive aspects of your experience. I try to take time to make notes in a journal, take photos, or simply reflect on my day.

4. Engage In Local Culture

  • Engaging in local culture while traveling allows you to immerse yourself in the customs, traditions, and way of life of the people in the place you visit. I aim to attend cultural events, try local foods, learn about the history, and participate in community activities while visiting another country. Gaining a deeper understanding of yourself and others, while fostering personal growth and well-being is so important.

5. Out Of Your Comfort Zone

  • Step out of your comfort zone and try new experiences! Whether it’s trying local cuisine, learning a new language, or exploring unfamiliar places these are all wonderful practices to try something new. Stepping outside of your comfort zone can lead to personal growth by increasing confidence, adaptability, and resilience. Having lived in the BVI for the last 20 years, moving felt so scary! It took us a long time to make the final decision and I’m so glad we did! Jamaica is one of the most beautiful places in the world and the local culture and community has been so warm and welcoming from the moment you arrive. This island has so much to offer, from its mountain terrain famous for coffee, rum, and cocoa, the long sandy beaches, Caribbean Sea, and so much more. It should be on everyone’s list to visit!
  • My husband and children are so adventurous, and joke that I am always the more cautious member of the family. I often volunteer to be the photographer as they eagerly climb waterfalls and mountains, jump off cliffs or boats, and swim in the middle of the ocean. Their courage and adventurous attitude lead me forward and I face my fears with confidence. In turn, these experiences increase my own courage and confidence.

My vision for The Spa at Tryall is to create an experience that leaves guests calm and centered, completing their vacation. We have created bespoke treatments using JACANA JAMAICA. The range of treatments the spa offers covers all needs including chakra balancing, unblocking Meridians, exfoliation, lymphatic stimulation, and deep tissue massages. With the help of our team, we have created something for everyone at The Spa at Tryall.

Based on your experience, where do you see the future of wellness travel heading in the next 5–10 years?

Wellness travel will only continue to improve within the next 5–10 years. Over the past 30 years that I’ve been in the industry, wellness travel has evolved immensely, but some core properties remain. Innovative technology has paved the way to increase efficiency of treatments and provide quicker results. Technology will always continue to advance, and in turn will improve spa practices. Additionally, as travel trends start to tap into wellness, I believe holistic wellness will be top of mind for travelers. Those looking for treatments on their vacation will continue seeking offerings that address mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being with the uptick in conversations being addressed around mental health. This has led to the incorporation of mindfulness practices, including meditation, and sound and energy healing in spa menus. Lastly, with the increased demand for clean and sustainable beauty products, clients will continue to inquire about the ingredients used in skincare and body treatments, leading to a surge in demand for organic, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free spa products. The evolution of spa treatments reflects a dynamic industry that has successfully embraced technological advancements while retaining holistic, traditional treatments at the core. From the integration of cutting-edge equipment to the revival of holistic wellness practices, spas have become more versatile and tailored to individual needs. As technology continues to advance and wellness trends evolve, the spa industry is poised to offer even more innovative and personalized experiences in the years to come.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 😊

I always wanted to meet and have tea with Nelson Mandela. He was always an inspiration to humanity. I have such admiration for how he stayed so positive and kept striving to create peace and a better world during his lifetime. I felt so sad when he passed and grateful for his vast life accomplishments. I was lucky to meet his lovely wife, Winnie and his good friend, Archbishop Tutu, as they shared stories and wisdom with me.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success.

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