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Virginia Ecotour Guide Certification

Virginia Ecotour Guide LogoTourism is a major driver in Virginia’s economy and ecotourism is especially important in coastal Virginia. Ecotourism connects people to the natural resources that the Virginia CZM Program is striving to protect, and - we hope - instills a strong will to take care of these life-sustaining resources.

The Virginia CZM Program has helped develop and fund several Ecotour Guide certification courses over the years on Virginia's Eastern Shore. In 1992, through the Northampton County SAMP, an initial ecotourism course was developed by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's Natural Heritage Program. In 2003 the Virginia Institute of Marine Science completed the curriculum and offered the course for the first time. In 2005, VIMS conducted the first Eastern Shore Eco-Tour Instructors Training Course. During 2007-2009 ecotour guide certification and trainers courses were created for use on an ongoing basis at the Eastern Shore Community College. In the spring of 2014, the Virginia Certified Ecotour Course curriculum was expanded to include all of coastal Virginia and made available in an online format. In this way we were able to educate and collaborate with tour operators and outdoor enthusiasts not only from the Eastern Shore, but from the Middle Peninsula, Virginia Peninsula, and even overseas. The program continues to grow in collaboration with the Virginia Tourism Corporation, local coastal planners, community colleges, State Park interpreters, and private stakeholders.

For a list of currently certified Virginia Ecotour Guides, visit

For more information about development of the Virginia Ecotour Guide certification program and the Virginia CZM Program’s investment in this effort, please contact Laura McKay,, or 804.698.4323.


Upcoming Courses

2021 Virginia Certified Ecotour Guide Course - Registration Open

January 12 - March 6, 2021

All classes ON-LINE on Tuesdays evenings. Field trip tentatively scheduled for March 13 OR March 22.

Students will learn aspects of ecotourism, ecosystems, customer service, marketing, interpretation skills, culture, & natural history.

Successful students will meet participation requirements, pass quizzes, submit a final report, & attend the field trip in March (following COVID guidelines).

Ecotour guides who took the course in 2017 need to take the course again to maintain their certification.

Register Today

For more information:
Jessica Steelman
757-787-2936 x114

The course is sponsored by the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program and the Rural Coastal Virginia Alliance.

For a list of currently certified Virginia Ecotour Guides, visit

Virginia Water Trails logo


Virginia Ecotour Guide Program Video

Watch this just released video on Virginia Ecotour Guide Certification!  

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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