06/11/2013 02:07 pm ET Updated Aug 11, 2013

The World's Most Important Travel Guides

Teachers are perhaps the world's most important travel guides. Each day, history, language and social studies teachers take their students around the world, introducing them to ancient civilizations like Pythagoras' Greece and dynastic China, and the contemporary cultures that compose today's diverse world community. Without crossing a single border, teachers empower young people to roam the globe. And one of the best ways we can empower teachers to be effective "travel guides" for their students is by helping them to travel themselves.

It is reported that in 2012, one billion people crossed country borders; there has never been better evidence of just how dynamic our world truly is. Encouraging people to explore other cultures -- whether they are teachers, students or anyone else -- has never been more important, and we at Hilton Worldwide think there's a powerful argument to be made in favor of making more travel possible for more people. Conrad Hilton, our founder, believed that travel can change the world, and we have seen firsthand that the positive effects of travel are deep and widespread.

First, travel has important economic impacts. One out of every 11 jobs worldwide is in the travel and tourism industry, and taking into account all of its direct and indirect impacts, the industry represents 9.3 percent of global gross domestic product. In addition, recent reports have found that travel is one of the most resilient economic drivers, adding jobs at a rate 15 percent faster than the rest of the American economy since recovery began in early 2010.

But the impact of travel and tourism doesn't stop there: more well-worn passports translate into individual and societal benefits, as well. Research suggests that travelers are more engaged and active citizens -- more likely to report volunteering or charitable giving. In addition, eight out of 10 American travelers surveyed report higher civic engagement than the general population.

If we agree that travel is beneficial on a number of levels, why should teachers, in particular, do more of it? It's simple: for every one teacher that visits a new destination, the benefits are amplified when he or she returns to the classroom. In fact, a recent article published by the National Education Association encouraged teachers to use their vacation experiences to enhance their students' classroom experience, arguing that teachers should not "underestimate the power of taking a well-deserved rest and ... experiencing other cultures to give you a better perspective in your classroom. The more we know, see and experience of our world, the better prepared we are to consider new viewpoints ... You just might find new ways to spark your students' learning."

For these reasons, we should support educators in their efforts to expose youth to other cultures -- and many groups already are. The renowned Fulbright Program, for instance, offers a number of programs designed to give teachers the opportunity to live in and explore new cultures. And National Geographic sponsors the Grosvenor Teacher Fellow program, an initiative that gives K-12 classroom teachers and other educators the chance to find new ways to bring geographic awareness and ocean stewardship to their classrooms by traveling to Norway, Arctic Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland or the Canadian High Arctic.

Those are just some of the most recognizable examples. What the Fulbright Program, National Geographic and countless others realize is that investing in one teacher's ability to experience new places and cultures can impact the futures of hundreds of children. As a global hospitality company with properties in 3,900 communities around the world, we hope to see more of these types of programs. Increased travel is critical to our success as a business, but we also sincerely believe that more movement across borders will bring us even closer to our vision for our company and the world we serve.

Not a company to just talk the talk, this year Hilton Worldwide created the Hilton HHonors Teacher Treks program, a grant competition that recognizes teachers who build awareness of cultural diversity within the classroom, and that provides them with an opportunity to see the world and bring their experiences back to their students. Just last week, we announced the 15 winners of our inaugural award. While Teacher Treks is just one small step, we hope it becomes an ongoing part of the broader movement to support teachers as they explore the world.

At Hilton Worldwide, we believe in the power of travel, and we believe in the power of a well-traveled education. As schools around the world break for the summer, we know our rooms will begin to fill up with families, individuals and business people crisscrossing the globe. With any luck, we'll host more educators than just our 15 Teacher Treks winners, and lucky or not, we're pretty sure they'll learn something new before they return home.