Never as monolithic as the airlines, the hotel industry is split on how to get heads back on beds. As room rates and occupancy levels have plummeted, some chains (most notably Hilton) have indulged in what the industry calls "naked discounting." That's when you simply slash nightly rates as low as required to fill a room. Other hotel players (most notably Marriott and many pricey resorts and independent properties) are trying to keep published rates high, but larding them with "value added" freebies. Sometimes it's free meals or spa treatments, and sometimes it's several hundred dollars worth of resort "credits" that travelers can use as they wish. Other times, the value-added inducement is third-party gift cards. So far this year, for example, Marriott outposts have offered gift cards from Target and Amazon.com as part of the nightly room rate.
Which is better? Depends on you. I prefer the rate reduction because things like a free Sunday brunch "worth" $45 is useless to a guy whose morning intake is invariably a bagel and coffee. But if you like what the hotel is offering -- and understand its actual retail value -- go for it.
I think the author of that article missed an opportunity to talk about the loyalty programs. In Marriott's case, more heads will land on beds with Pointsavers. Once they're on property, there are many other services that guests will take advantage of including time on the golf course to spa and of course, dining!