top of page

How My Career Led Me to a Family: Spa Director Leesa Jones, The Tryall Club, Jamaica

A career day in high school sparked Leesa Jones to pursue a career in spa and beauty, where she swiftly climbed the ranks traveling the world and training with top cosmetic houses. Her path took an adventurous leap into the skies as an in-flight spa therapist with Virgin Atlantic, only to land her on the pristine shores of Richard Branson's Necker Island, where she pioneered the island's first spa against a backdrop of ocean views and wildlife melodies. Since then, Leesa has worked at some of the world’s most prestigious spas including Spa Ulusaba, and Spa Kasbah Tamado, and creating her own venture, The Retreat at Nail Bay. Opening new spas and training therapists to deliver exceptional and holistic wellness experiences has been her forte and passion throughout her career.

However, it was at Necker Island she met her future life partner, Kenton, who was in charge of water-sports. As a married couple, they evolved into a dynamic duo act in hotel management jumping across various global hotspots, including a stint creating magical Moroccan retreats. They also went on to start a family, which brought a new set of joys and challenges.

Mother Nature then played a role, Hurricane Irma devastated the British Virgin Islands. After surviving that and helping build back the community and their home, Leesa and her family relocated to Jamaica. Kenton is Managing Director and Leesa is Spa Director at The Tryall Club, a 2,200-acre property in Montego Bay with 91 privately owned villas ranging from one to 10 bedrooms, each with a dedicated staff including a butler, chef, housekeeper, laundress and gardener tending to guests around the clock, plus world-renowned golf, water-sports and, of course, the new spa and wellness center which opened under Leesa's direction in December of 2023.

leesa jones tryall
Leesa Jones and her family on a 300 year old cotton tree in Jamaica

We chat with Leesa about her intriguing career path, how she's navigated challenges and triumphs alongside her partner, both in business and life, plus the inside scoop on trends shaping the wellness and hospitality sectors today. Here's herstory.

What drew you to hospitality, specifically spas?

Starting in the spa world wasn't just a job for me; it felt like a calling. It all began back in high school, during a career day that opened my eyes to the boundless possibilities within the industry. This intrigue quickly spiraled into a passion, leading me to land my first serious gig at a high-end spa right out of college at 18. It was here, collaborating with the crème de la crème of cosmetic houses like Clarins Paris, Guinot, and Decleor, that I caught the travel and training bug. But the sky was literally the limit for me. Despite a minor setback with Virgin Atlantic—getting turned down initially for being too young—I bounced back the day I turned 21, taking my spa skills to the clouds as an in-flight spa therapist, a job that had me zipping around the globe at 35,000 feet.

Leesa Jones Tryall
Leesa hostessing back in 2006

How did you transition into hotels?

This stint up in the air was just a chapter in my journey. Craving more, I landed a spot at La Residencia in Deià, Mallorca, for a secondment that marked my first real hotel job in the spa sector. That role was a gateway to more: soon after, I found myself steering recruitment and training for all the fresh faces at Virgin Atlantic and the Virgin Limited Edition resort spas. After that opportunity, I was eager to get back in the spa and was able to create the first spa at Necker Island, Sir Richard Branson’s private island resort in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). It was advertised as a six-month assignment, but it ended up taking two years as we set up at a stunning location on a cliff edge surrounded by the sounds of the ocean and wildlife. I was involved throughout the whole process from start to finish and kept busy in between working with the front of house departments to create magical dining experiences and unforgettable celebrations for guests.

Once the spa was up and running, I began looking for my next move and found Necker Island advertising for a Front of House Manager. Although this had not been my chosen path, I decided to apply. The interview process was tough, as they had to work out if I could transfer to the role and pivot to a new career direction. Following a three-month trial, I was officially given the role. 

How did you meet your husband?

We first met on Necker Island! As I was designing and setting up the spa, Kenton was running the water-sports center, and at the time he was teaching Richard Branson to kitesurf. Both of us viewed our jobs at the time on the island as a short-term contract. Yet as our careers grew, we both got involved in all areas of the resort. Working with the teams to create magical vacations became a passion for both of us and changed our career paths by leading us into Hotel Management. The first Co-General Management position we shared was at sister hotel Kasbah Tamadot Morocco, followed by the same role back at Necker Island.

Kenton Jones, Leesa Jones, and the Necker Island team with Richard Branson
Kenton, Leesa, and the Necker Island team with Richard Branson

When did you start working together? 

We first started working together where we met, on Necker Island in 2003. My role at the time was spa manager and then I progressed to the Front of House Manager in 2006 and Kenton served as water-sports manager and then progressed to Operations Manager in 2005. Our roles were very different, but we were able to collaborate in the middle for the guest experience aspect., Kenton and I worked closely together, alongside our wonderful teams to deliver magical vacations and celebrations for our lovely guests.

One memory continues to stick with me: Helping in the rooms, from making beds to tying mosquito nets to bamboo frames. I think there were 45 bows per net to be tied, and everyone dreaded mosquito net wash days! This experience later led me to work with the interior designer to create more staff-friendly solutions to such time-consuming tasks. This is how my husband, and I grew to become Hotel Managers, which requires understanding the logistical and financial sides of hospitality. We also proactively listen and work with teams to create a more fluid working environment that makes their job smoother operationally. 

In 2008, we applied for our first Co-General Management position in Morocco at Kasbah Tamadot in the Atlas Mountains together. Working with the Berber team, we brought our vast experience to the already magical Moroccan style for a wonderful two years. We were part of renovations, and again I was able to work with interior designers to create new rooms and suites. The Moroccan influence was amazing as we created magical tented suites and rooms bursting with color. This put us in good stead as we returned to Necker to Co-Manage, in 2011 we were part of the project to rebuild the Great House following a fire, and helped design new staff areas and storage needed as the property grew from private home to an exclusive resort.

Wow, you worked at some amazing places and worked your way up to GM together, how did you divide respobsibilities?

My focus was Front of House and ensuring the property’s standards were met, while my husband focused on the financials, back of house, and operations. We were able to meet in the middle for the guest experience and expectations.

Kenton and Leesa Jones Tryall
Family dinner at Tryall in Jamaica

You took a break to raise your kids and now you are back working together?

I have always stayed busy with a full-time job. While Kenton and I were co-Managing the resort that we lived on, it was truly all consuming and gave us little family time together. In search of a better work/ life balance, I changed my role to enable more time to spend with our children and bring a home/work balance for us all.

Changing my role meant that we could be off at the same time and could move off the Island. We then bought a home on Virgin Gorda, BVI where our kids went to school. This career change inspired me with new found creativity as I focused on the Island’s gift shop introducing high-end resort wear and swimwear, branded items, updating uniforms, and introducing bespoke handmade jewelry. It was a lot of fun and less stress, which gave me the space and time I needed to connect with my family. Hotel management is all consuming and when you and your partner are both in it together. The balance can be hard.

Hotel management is all consuming and when you and your partner are both in it together. The balance can be hard.

Our lives changed after Irma, a major hurricane, which wiped out the BVIs in 2017, including our family home. Kenton assisted with a huge part of the recovery and stayed in the BVI, but like many, my children and I were evacuated. We couldn’t return for eight months due to the destruction of schools and infrastructure. Once we were able to return, we rented a house and my next challenge – and one I loved – was managing the rebuild of our home. We made it better, including the addition of my own home business, The Retreat at Nail Bay, comprising two one-bedroom apartments and a spa room. I managed the apartments and went full circle back to spa, quickly building a client base of holiday makers and residents interested in luxurious anti-aging facials and body treatments. The business quickly grew, and I now have a spa team work out of the spa room at Saba Rock Resort. 

We moved to Jamaica in April of 2023, I am currently working as a consultant for The Tryall Club, the luxury private golf club in Montego Bay, Jamaica, creating the new spa and wellness experience. It has been such a fun project designing every aspect from the spaces and treatment rooms to the menu and customized, bespoke treatments.

What is the best part of working with your (romantic) partner?

We met working together so for us it was natural. We constantly bounce ideas and creativity off each other, working with some departments solely and helping enhance the guest experience and creativity. It’s how we roll! Even now, we don’t work together as such, but we always enjoy hearing about each other’s days and helping one another to perfect ideas and be creative.

What is the biggest challenge of working together?

The biggest challenge working together is creating a work/life balance and being able to take time off without constantly bringing in work elements.

Son Theo with the water-sports team at Necker Island
Son Theo with the water-sports team at Necker Island

One of your children is a competitive kitesurfer.  Tell me about that! 

We have two wonderful outgoing children, Theo and Zara, now 16 and 14. Both have been brought up in paradise and around our resort life! When they were little, Theo would often head to water-sports and hang out with the instructors. They even had a small version of the uniform made for him, which he loved! Zara was intrigued as to where her older brother was always jetting off to, and as soon as she was old enough to venture with him, off she went! Watching the kitesurfing with awe, she asked her Dad, who was one of the early kitesurfing instructors, “Will you teach me?” He taught Zara during Covid and is still coaching her now. She learned quickly and has not looked back ever since. Just last June, at age 13, she placed 2nd in Under 16’s at GKA Youth World Championship in Tarifa! 

Zara Jones kiteboarding
Zara learning to kitesurf with Kenton

How amazing. Definitely working in hospitality is one way to enjoy a life surrounded by water-sports! What is next for her?

Having watched her brother Theo head off to boarding school, Zara said she didn’t ever want to do that. She soon changed her mind when she was offered the opportunity to join the World Class Kite Academy. She will be travelling the world from August, kitesurfing and continuing her academics as they travel. Each term is in a different country as they follow the perfect wind conditions.

Zara Jones at the Kite Boarding Youth Championships
Zara at the Kitesurfing Youth Championships

Transitioning to wellness, tell us about the new spa at The Tryall Club. What are you most excited about?

The Spa at Tryall has been one of my favorite projects. The moment I walked into the former villa, I knew it had found its purpose. The rooms and floor plan were perfect for a new spa, and the views over the lush green Jamaican landscape and the natural Jamaican carpentry suit the space perfectly. It is a truly serene spot. I also love the treatment menu we have been able to create. 

The product ranges we have brought in are effective, as well as good choices for our being, as they are sensitive to the environment. Jacana Jamaica is a stunning organic CBD, Botanical range grown just 2 hours away from Tryall, we have devised bespoke body treatments to suit every need. The stunning Bamford range leaves guests saying they have had the best facial! I also love the Yoga & Sound Meditation space, which brings wonderful energy and has become so popular with guests. I’m excited to work with the teams to create bespoke spa packages and wellness retreats soon.

What three wellness trends do you see taking shape right now?

There are so many wellness trends happening right now, but there are three that stick out in my mind. First, Sound Mediation combined with Yoga has been booming. At the Tryall Club, we have incorporated sound meditation into most of our practices to add another innovative element, sound is so effective in bringing our stress level down quickly. Additionally, the anti-aging and sleep enhancing trends have been the talk of the wellness world recently and we have brought in both kinds of treatments to the spa.

Quickfire with Leesa:

What is your morning routine?

At least four days a week, Keny and I do yoga together, whether for 10 minutes or an hour. I also walk our dog Mr. Milo in the mornings, which really helps to set the tone of my day. He has traveled with us from BVI to London to Jamaica. Then it’s breakfast, school & work. We have always been early risers, and Jamaica has given us a break from catching early boats and ferries.

What do you do for self-care?

Always looking after my skin: cleansing, massaging, and incorporating a serum, and moisturizer. I always try to have a good routine and iron out the appearing lines with my gua sha and stimulate collagen and elastin with a regular facial. A facial is my favorite treat.

What is your top skincare tip?

1. Always take off your make up, and give your face a good massage as you do!

2. Serum – it’s the skin’s best drink! 

3. Body brushing 2 to 3 times a week.

Are gel manicures bad for you? (I love mine but wonder this.)

They can be, and of course they dry the natural nail. But you can soon rejuvenate your natural nail if you stop using gels. I love Tryalls almost chemical free nail range Kure Bazaar it is so gentle on the nail but still effective with 90% bio sourced ingredients.

What is the best advice you ever got? (Any from Richard Branson?)

Don’t growl! And if you do apologize quickly! My Dad said this to me on my wedding day.

Richard is an amazing advice giver, but the biggest lesson or example would be to always look forward and at the positive side of everything that happens. He never gives up, he has the most optimistic view on life. We worked for him through two natural disasters that caused extensive damage and months of closure. Some would despair and hide in a hole, but his mind immediately looks at the solutions. It’s a great way to live.

What is the worst advice you ever took?

Stay and bunker down through a hurricane! Not sure I would choose to experience an off-the-chart hurricane again, especially with worry of my children being around. If we could have gotten out beforehand that would have been my preference.

What books/ TV/ podcasts are you into right now?

Recently read Bill Bryson’s The Body: A Guide for Occupants. So interesting! 

Currently reading Beginners guide to Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Susan Weis-Bohlen. Currently working through podcasts on Fearne Cotton’s App, “Happy Place.”


bottom of page