Readers and members of our Facebook Lounge often write to us for help with their travels. The Points Guy wants to help members of the TPG community when possible, so they have asked Michelle Couch- Friedman to act as their ombudsman.

If you've had a situation where something has gone wrong with your travels or one of your credit cards and you're not getting a response from the company responsible, she can help you reach a satisfactory resolution. She has decades of experience advocating for consumers and has already helped readers get thousands of dollars' worth of compensation.

Are you in need of her assistance? We will try to get your query to her in the cases where she might be able to help you.

You could fly into South Africa after a two-week tour of Africa. You've had an exciting but dusty adventure, and you're looking forward to staying at a Marriott hotel. A hot shower, a tasty dinner, a TV with multiple news and entertainment options, and a soft bed are all in the works.

Is that the case?

Johannesburg's skyline. THEGIFT777/GETTY IMAGES

You suddenly find yourself in a different reality. The Marriott hotel that was confirmed for you is no longer open. Airport employees say that it has been closed for over two years.

Mike S. had an awful situation last month when his family returned from a vacation. It's even worse? He called Marriott to ask for help, but was told that the hotel was closed and no further information was given.

Marriott abandoned Mike's family at a permanently closed hotel, and now he wants to know why.

We pursued his case so that he could know. We found out what we were looking for.

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Planning an exciting family adventure

A year ago, as travel restrictions began to ease, Mike and his family made a plan to go to Africa.

The trip to Natural Habitat was planned by Mike. In partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, NHA is known for its expertise in planning unique African safaris that are focused on protecting the environment. This family was attracted to the company's mission statement.

The family was going on a vacation in June of this year.

Mike thought he could take care of himself.

The family would have a 27 hour stop in South Africa. Mike turned to Marriott to find a hotel that was close to the O.R. Tambo International Airport.

The Marriott website led me to the hotel at the airport. We didn't have to clear customs or leave the area. We were going to stay until our evening flight on the second day.

Mike was happy to earn points as a Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite. Within minutes, he got a confirmation from Marriott that he had booked two rooms.

'Your African Adventure Awaits'


"Your African Adventure Awaits" was the announcement on the Marriott reservation.

The type of African adventure waiting for them at this Marriott hotel wasn't the best, but they wouldn't find out until a year later.

An unpleasant surprise

The summer of 2022, is fast approaching. The family was excited to go on a trip.

I was told before we left that the Marriott hotel was at the airport. I received a reminder about our stay at the hotel when we were on a trip to Africa. There was nothing to indicate that something was wrong with that property.

The family left for Africa in the first week of June, believing everything was okay. Mike and his family had a great time on their trip to Africa.

It was amazing. Mike remembered something. We apologized for ending the adventure.


The family began their journey back to their home state. They flew from Africa to South Africa.

It was a relief to know that we didn't have to leave when we arrived. When we told the woman at passport control that we were at the airport's transit area, she said that the hotel had been closed since 2020.

The officer told Mike what to do. The family would need to clear customs and find an alternative place to stay in order to stay in South Africa. The family was sent through customs by her.

At the airport with no place to go

Mike called the number on his Marriott confirmation hoping that it was a mistake. The thing was not.

Mike said what happened next.

There was a recording that said the Marriott was closed. At the lost luggage desk, we asked for advice. The Intercontinental is across the street from the terminal exit.

It's upsetting when you find yourself outside the airport in a foreign country without a plan.

The travelers walked into the Intercontinental with hopes of finding a room. The cost of a night at the Intercontinental was double what he had expected, but it did. The crisis was over even though Mike paid it.

Mike left on a new mission after the group flew home. He wanted to find out why Marriott had booked, confirmed, and reconfirmed his family at a hotel that had been closed for more than two years.

He wanted Marriott to reimburse him for the rooms he was forced to book at the last minute.

He got a surprise email from Marriott.

'Tell Us About Your Stay'

After sending a complaint to Marriott, Mike received a message from the company in his inbox. He thought it would be an apology from Bonvoy. It wasn't an apology, that's for sure.

It was just an automated message asking for a review of the family's stay at the hotel. Marriott was unaware that the property was closed for business, according to the survey. It was signed by the hotel's manager.


Mike wouldn't recommend this hotel to anyone.

When a follow-up request for a review arrived a few days later, there was no indication that Marriott would respond to his complaint.

Asking Marriott for an explanation

I shared Mike's amazement at Marriott's mistakes when he asked for help.

Mike said that Marriott gave him bad customer service. I thought it might be worth sharing it with someone else.

The family had to pay more to go to the Intercontinental. Mike wanted Marriott to reimburse him for the unforeseen expense.

I explained the unpleasant experience to our executive contact at Marriott.

80,000 Marriott points — and an apology

Mike received good news the next day. Marriott apologized and gave him 80,000 Bonvoy points. We received an email from Mike.


The corporate representative explained a few things after Marriott apologized over the phone.

  1. Marriott doesn't know what happened, but they are looking into it and will ensure that there are no other reservations in their system to the closed Protea Transit hotel.
  2. My case was closed by a Marriott customer service agent with no response to me. And my complaint would not have been addressed if not for your outreach. They are also looking into why the agent did that.
  3. Marriott credited my account with 80,000 points to make up for this situation.

Thank you again. I used 80,000 points for two nights at a hotel that would have cost me more than $500 per night. Mike S. is a person.

There is a message on the internet that the hotel is closed. Mike just booked a hotel in the Autograph collection. There's nothing to worry about. It's open for business.

Mike, I hope you enjoy your stay.

Ensure this doesn't happen to you

Mike had no idea that Marriott was giving him incorrect information. The family's dream vacation to Africa was the focus of his attention. He assumed the part he thought was a no-brainer was a problem.

There are some lessons that Mike has learned from his experience. You don't want to end up in a far off land at a closed hotel.

  • Look at reviews: Depending on the location, hotel quality can vary greatly, even with a trusted brand like Marriott. If you are self-booking your accommodations, don't overlook published reviews. Not only will you get an idea of what to expect when you arrive, but if there is an abrupt end to the reviews, you'll want to figure out why. In the case of this hotel, there were a series of 1 and 2-star reviews — then nothing — since the fall of 2019. We now know why.
  • Always confirm directly with the hotel: If you book a property through the brand's centralized reservation system (or through a third-party booking agent), always follow up with the hotel directly. Many resorts will preemptively send you a separate confirmation after the front desk receives your reservation. But if you don't receive that type of confirmation, make sure to call or email the hotel and request it. Carefully review your reservation to be sure that the details are correct.
  • Reconfirm your reservation: Before starting your journey, it's always a good idea to reconfirm directly with the property. This is true now more than ever. Unfortunately, many airlines, cruise lines and hotels did not survive the pandemic. Speaking to someone at the hotel shortly before you arrive will allow you to double-check its viability and also confirm any special requests you might have.
  • Use a professional travel advisor: Using a travel advisor can help guarantee that you won't find yourself halfway around the world with no place to stay. These professionals pride themselves on ensuring they keep on top of the constantly changing world of travel. And if something goes wrong with your reservation during your journey, a professional travel advisor will make sure to fix the problem. You can find an ASTA-certified agent here — one that specializes in your destination and mode of travel.

Bottom line

Travelers are often sent to permanently closed hotels, but this is not an isolated case. It is worth taking precautions to protect your travels against similar problems.

Send your story to tips@ if you had the same experience. I will be happy to help you as well.